Saturday, February 28, 2009

Guest Post: Obama Sets Iraqi Troops Withdrawal Timeline

The Following is a guest post:

President Obama recently announced his proposed withdrawal date from Iraq of August 31, 2010. All but about 35,000 to 50,000 troops would be set home to the US, while the others remain for counter-terrorism and other security purposes until 2011.

Critics object that the number of Iraqi troops set to return home is not high enough. But I think they fail to appreciate that the US needs a military, ground presence to prevent a coup d’├ętat. After all, we created this chaos in Iraq, and now we must do our best to tidy up. And that may mean leaving some troops in Iraq, which is still a drastic improvement over the current situation.

Not everyone disagrees with Obama's Iraqi withdrawal plan. An unlikely supporter seems to believe that Obama is acting appropriately. According to the AP, "Arizona Sen. John McCain, who sparred with Obama on the merits of a timetable for the war in a bid for the presidency: said Obama's plan 'is one that can keep us on the right path in Iraq.'" This is surprising because McCain practically implied that Obama was an unfit leader. Nevertheless, I couldn't agree more with McCain on this issue.

Over 4,000 men and women have died in Iraq. War is a terrible proposition that does not usually end on a happy note. But at least this war is winding down after almost six years in Iraq. Now it is time to follow President Obama's plan and send our troops home for good.

Bryan Wisotsky, Storybook Vacations



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Health Care Budget


Check out my piece defending Obama's health care plan at Huliq News:

http://www.huliq.com/3478/77873/defending-obamas-health-care-budget

The good news is that the President has taken a good first step toward real health care reform. The bad news is that we still don't know if it will work, or if he will take more and better steps later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lunatic Pastors fear Obama is antichrist/Hitler



The Video speaks for itself:

Rachel Maddow Slams Jindal

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jindal does his best "Ronald Reagan"

Bobby Jindal is foolish.

That is the nicest way I can say it.

In response to Obama's Presidential address Gov. Jindal said the following:



Governor that is simply a standard G.O.P variation on the Reagan Mantra: "government is not the solution, government is the problem."

Oh Really Bobby?!

Do you, Governor, honestly believe that the best way to create jobs is through income tax breaks? Do you honestly believe that the credit, housing, and banking crisis was brought on by too much government regulation?!

Look Bob, tax breaks will not create jobs nor encourage spending. Given the depth of this present recession the federal government is the only entity left wit the power to dish out the funds needed to create jobs.

My dear Mr. Jindal, the deregulation of the Bush and Clinton presidencies got us in this mess. Tax breaks - Bush's central economic "plan" - did nothing to stop us from getting into our dire situation, how then will they lift us out of it?

I understand you plan to refuse stimulus money. That is rather odd, since as governor you have quite a large say about how that money is spent.

Wake up Governor! Milton Friedman had departed from us; it is time his economic philosophy departed with from us as well.

Your tired rhetoric about keeping the government out of our affairs and helping ourselves out of this mess is absurd. One can sometimes pull oneself up, but not if one is drowning. Sometimes you just can't make it without a helping hand.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Netanyahu the Obstructionist

I am very worried for a world in which Bejamin Netanyahu is back in power to weild his threat to peace and his contempt for justice. Just check out the BBC's profile of this man to learn how awful his return to power is for any peace prospect.

The following video shows Aljazeera's reaction to the bad news:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two pages to promote.

Hello Everyone!

Not much to blog about today, it's my birthday (32 this year) and my fiance and I are getting ready to head out to dinner to celebrate.

But I thought I'd promote two other pages here today:

1. Mr. Bryan Wisotsky's blog Storybook Vacations

Bryan's blog is quite good, both on travel and politics. I've guest blogged there myself. Bryan will soon guest blog here in return.

2. Huliq News, a citizen online news source. This is particularly important as it is imperative that we bypass the corporate funded media and look at the insight and the dissent of ordinary citizens. I also write news stories for this page, so naturally I'm prone to advertise it.

Both these web pages have links in my sections "blogroll" and "useful links" respectively. These along with many other pages linked there are rather good sources of information.


Friday, February 20, 2009

More on "My Name is Rachel Corrie."

The Marquette Tribune has given a very positive and well articulated review of Ms. Jennifer Shine's Senior capstone Play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie."

As I mentioned in a previous post, I found the play extremely moving and informative. And Ms. Shine's performance was splendid!

In the same issue, there is an article about studies claiming business students cheat more frequently than other students

If that is true think of the ramfications this has for our pro-big business, deregulated markets social set up!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fact and Fiction in the Stimulus Bill

Much has been claimed about what the stimulus will or will not do. Factcheck.org has a very good article for helping get past all the political bluster and looking at the facts of the matter:

http://www.factcheck.org/politics/stimulus_bill_bravado.html

Among the main points are the following:
"Obama repeatedly said the plan "will save or create up to 4 million jobs." Obama downgraded that estimate to 3.5 million once the House and Senate agreed on a less-expensive compromise bill. The projections come from at least three economists, but all say there is great uncertainty in their estimates.

Republican House members claimed their substitute legislation tops that, creating "6.2 million jobs." But their calculation is even more fraught with uncertainty and is not backed up by independent economists.

Obama said the bill doesn't contain "a single earmark." But whether one calls them "earmarks" or not, the Senate certainly added items that will benefit particular states. For example: $50 million for programs under the California-Bay Delta Act and $500 million for National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Md.

Obama claims that f
unds in the bill will result in "every American" having health records computerized "within five years." But experts doubt it can be done that quickly.

The president also says electronic health records will save billions of dollars. But the Congressional Budget Office says that even a decade of expected savings are unlikely to pay back the government what the government will spend on health IT

The president said the bill will modernize the nation's electricity grid, reducing consumption by 2 percent to 4 percent. That's optimistic. Industry reports say that a new grid could reduce energy consumption by up to 4 percent, but not until 2030 and at a cost much greater than the stimulus bill would cover." (factcheck.org)



Recovery.gov Launched.

How will the stimulus be spent? Well Recovery.gov is now up and running - it even includes graphs!

This is part of the Obama "transparency" pledge. Check it out and follow how the stimulus is being put into play.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Name is Rachel Corrie: Marquette Performance

Last night I attended a one woman play at Marquette. The Play, My Name is Rachel Corrie was the senior capstone of Marquette actress Jennifer Shine.

Rachel Corrie was a peace activist killed by an Israeli Bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. At the time Ms. Corrie was attempting to stand between the Bulldozer and a Palestinian home that was being torn down to pave the way for Israeli settlers.

Ms. Shine gave a remarkable performance as Rachel. As one audience member remarked "you made me think you were Rachel." No higher praise can be given an actor than that and Ms. Shine truly did accomplish this feat. Her performance was passionate and moving, she brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience last night.

I found the play important for several reasons. First, the play communicates Rachel Corries' passion for a better world. But more than that, the dialog - consisting entirely of the actual words of Ms. Corrie from journals and emails - shows us a young woman who is inherently positive and believes in her fellow humans, but whose faith and hope is severely challenged by the tragedy of the Palestinian people.

Second, by communicating the plight of the Palestinians through the eyes of an outsider, we learn a great deal about the suffering they endure.

Truly memorable are Rachel's words about the people of Gaza. She describes the agony of numerous check points, the economic disaster, the bulldozing of homes and green houses, bullets whizzing by constantly, homes full of tank blasts, children pyschological damaged by their worn torn lives.

The horror of occupation is brought vividly to life in this play through the words of a woman of courage and passion.

Jennifer Shine told the audience in a Q and A session afterward that she plans to continue doing theatre for the purpose of social justice.

Let us hope so. She's a gifted actress. The arts can communicate much to us and often transform us as well.

In this case an inspiring young woman who lost her life fighting for a better world spoke to us and challenged us. Let us hope we all learned something.

At the play Peace Action Wisconsin set up a table to convey accurate information on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Check out their web page, as they are very informative.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Obama's Stimulus got right

In this clip the benefits of the Stimulus are expalined:

Fear of Female sexuality

Elizabeth Wong, Malaysian politician, has offered to resign in light of the fact that nude pictures of her in bed taken by an ex- boyfriend have surfaced.

Ms. Wong has long taken political heat in Malaysia because she is 37 and single.

This is another case of male fear of female sexuality and female Independence. This tends to be a pretty standard feature of human culture: female sexuality is seen as something that needs to be controlled and ordered, don't dare let it get out of hand!

Sad that there is still so much of this fear and need to control in the world. We are in the 21st century now, it would be nice to see a deeper appreciation of female independence and sexual expression.

The BBC has the story in more detail. And the following video explains the events:


Monday, February 16, 2009

What is in that Stimulus?

In the following clip Paul Krugman explains to Keith Olbermann what the Stimulus will do, and why he thinks it is far too small.


At long last is health care reform upon us?

Despite the fact that the stimulus does not do enough for Health care reform, some much needed reform is included. In particular the bill calls for changing health care records to electronic form by 2011, saving a great deal of money and time, as well as creating IT jobs.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a good account of what the stimulus includes with regard to health care reform.

The GOP and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh are appalled by the health care provisions in the stimulus. They claim that the democrats are using the stimulus to introduce federal government control of health care -- which they see as a great horror.

What these objectors are so worried about is the creation of a 15 person government committee that will oversee and evaluate data on what treatments are effective or not. The N. Y. Times has a piece explaining this committee, and it appears that the opponents of this committee are making much ado about nothing.

However, the state of Minnesota has passed a bill that will create a single-payer system in the state. I reported on this for Huliq News the other day.

Single-payer health care is greatly feared by many in the united states. They fear it will be inefficient and will give the federal government far too much power over our autonomy and health. But it has been forcefully defended by many, including Noble Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. And Single payer systems are hailed as quite successful in countries like France, England and Canada.

It may well be that health care reform is finally here. Let us hope that it is. Our system as it stands is broken. Health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy in our country, we spend 16% of our GDP on health care costs, and still 47 million Americans remain uninsured.

I hope that the provisions included in the stimulus and the bill in Minnesota are the beginning of much needed and long overdue real reform!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reclaiming Valentine's Day


For many years I had thought that Valentine's Day was nothing more than a bogus holiday dreamed up by corporate interests to sell greeting cards, candy and flowers.

Obviously there was truth in that assumption. That is very largely what Valentine's day is in our commercialized culture. But - and I freely concede that being happily engaged to a wonderful woman has affected me here - I've come to see meaning and purpose in this holiday.

If we step back and think of this day as a day to set aside for the celebration of love, we shall see that it is well worth the observing. And I mean ALL LOVE. We love our family and friends, our lovers, and to some degree - when we are at our best - all of our fellow human beings. Having a day to recognize this love is important.

Love is what is best about human beings. Yes, I know that we are also full of hypocrisy, hate, greed, and foolishness. And for this very reason it is all the more important that love be remembered, that love have the final say in our lives.

There are various legends and tales about a supposed St. Valentine. These tales come out of the later middle ages and the 19th century, and have nothing to do with any possible "Historical Valentine." Common to all the tales is the idea that either Valentine himself, or young people whom he as a priest married, were forbidden to love and wed by the forces of tyranny, oppression and empire. Valentine defies these powers and their laws, celebrating and sanctifying love. For his courage, Valentine is martyred.

The message in the tales of St. Valentine is that love liberates us. By loving each other we discover ourselves, and only then. This, in the legends of Valentine is why love is forbidden and why Valentine is proclaimed a hero for championing love against the power of empire.

Romantic love in particular is celebrated on this day. I used to hold that this was nothing more than a bias on our part. Privileging one kind of love over the others. Well, we do in fact misconceive and over sentimentalize romantic love (just as we do childhood). Nevertheless, romantic love unites two people like nothing else can.

Romantic love burns down the walls that separate us and compels us to grow, mature, and change in ways we never thought possible and never knew we could.

So let us celebrate love today, let us celebrate each other. We need not buy chocolate or flowers, but we need to remember the value of love.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

There's a new homerun champion of the world . . . and it's Henry Aaron!


Huliq News is reporting that the major league baseball all time homerun record might be be officially restored to Hank Aaron, as Bonds' steroid use makes his homeruns illegitimate. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is even now considering such a move.

As Selig is from Milwaukee and a personal friend of Aaron's we have good reason to think the move is likely. Not that personal reasons should affect his decision. What matters is the integrity and moral fiber of the game.

I hope commissioner bud Selig returns the record to Aaron. Integrity, honesty, and fair play matter. This is why Hank Aaron is a hero, and Bonds a mere disgrace.

Here's to the Hammer!

February 12th: 200 years later and 100 years later



On this date, February 12th, in 1809 both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were Born.

Interestingly, Lincoln freed the slaves and Darwin was a fervent abolitionist. The world is different because of these men.

There are those who do not hold either man in esteem. Many Biblical Literalists see Darwin as little better than an agent of deception and perhaps even the devil's stooge. And there are those who think "Honest Abe" had no genuine interest in freeing the slaves.

I do not share the views of these critics. In place of scepticism and scorn I suggest that we take some time today and reflect on their lives and influences. What both men have done to better our world and further our knowledge.

Here are some good places to start:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/opinion/12thu4.html?partner=permalink&
exprod=permalink


http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11679532

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/brad_hirschfield/2009/02/lincoln_darwin_and_gay_marriag.html

It is also important to note that today is also the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the N.A.A.C.P, which was founded quite intentionally on Lincoln's 100th birthday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Salma Hayek Breastfeeds another woman's baby!

ABC news reports that actress Salma Hayek breast fed another woman's child in Sierra Leon.

Apparently Hayek was told that children in Sierra Leon frequently die from malnutrition, partly because women stop breastfeeding too soon due to pressure on them from their husbands:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=6854285&page=1

The following video explains the whole episode.

This story brings up a ton of moral issues. Most obviously the sexism and patriarchy of men in Sierra Leon, but also the question of whether it is appropriate for a woman to breastfeed another's child.


It seems to me that Ms. Hayek was acting out of compassion and trying to set an example to inspire the women to resist pressure to not breast feed. In fact I admire Salma Hayek for doing it. I think she was making a powerful statement. She was empowering women, and fighting - symbolocially - agaist the patriarchal culture that stops breast feeding early there.

But the topic is worth much discussion.

Geithner's Bank Bailout

As most of us are aware Timothy Geithner has announced his plan to save the banks:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/business/economy/11bailout.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

What we have is essentially a bailout of larger proportions than what has already come. It looks like there will be more accountability, although Geithner's plan is still far from clear. Indeed the lack of clarity is the main criticism against him.

Some folks are defending the plan:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/119903-in-defense-of-tim-geithner

I'm not, however, sure what to make of this plan. I get the idea behind it. Businesses need money to hire, consumers need money to spend, and the banks are not lending, give them money force them to lend and get the economy moving again.

This essentially means that our new administration has a two-pronged approach to the economy. Pump money into job creation and pour money into banks to get credit working again.

There are reason why both these approaches might fail. But let's look more deeply. What if they succeed? What will be accomplished? If we get credit flowing,we will have the same problem that caused this crisis: we will have people unable to pay back their credits and banks then losing money. In short, we will have the same problems in the future. All we are doing is postponing economic doom.

The stimulus is a better idea, but currently I fear it is too watered down, too much of the needed stimulus amount has been removed.

But no matter. Suppose that the stimulus does boost the economy, suppose we get credit flowing again. Is this a permanent fix? Or are we merely temporarily stopping the bleeding without healing the wound?

These are pretty standard old hat washington insider policies. But then agan, Obama loaded his cabinet with Washington insiders, so we really can't expect new ideas.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What should we make of the Stimulus?

This week's issue of Milwaukee's Shepard Express has a very fine article in favor of the stimulus:

http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/article-5394-clearing-up-myths-about-the-stimulus-package.html

It argues for the basic liberal position on this stimulus and attempts to refute various conservative/Republican objections to it. The real advantage of the article is its refutation of various misconceptions ("myths") about the stimulus package. A fine read.

The issue is more complicated than most of us would Like to admit. I had a good conversation on this matter with my friend Nate last night on this matter.

Nate, arguing on Distrubitivist grounds, opposed the stimulus saying that it is merely an attempt to preserve a fundamentally unjust system in which a few elites control the wealth and the means of production and reduce the rest of us to wage slavery.

The system, Nate argued, is fundamentally unjust and must be left to fall.

I agree that the system is unjust. The few make obscene profits and control the rest of us by molding us into their wage laborers and consumers. But I don't think letting the system fall will change things, I suspect it will make it worse and plunge us deeper into a robber baron nightmare.

We do need to change our system radically - In particular I would like to see far FAR more support for small/local businesses - , but in the meantime, we must put people to work. Tax cuts will accomplish little if nothing, spending will create jobs.

By all means let us continue to oppose the system and campaign for change, but let's also stop the current bleeding.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Update: Whitehouse video reappears

The video that vanished last night has reappeared. I can't be sure, because the former video vanished, but I think it is slightly modified to appear more guarded.

Here is the version now up there:


Friday, February 6, 2009

Whitehouse.gove pulls video response to Stimulus agreement!

This is odd. I just tried to watch a video on Whitehouse.gov and it would not load. Then, a few moments later, the entire post and video were gone!

Does this mean the stimulus will not pass after all?!

Or was the response merely deemed - inappropriate?

In any case it was odd. A full message with video from Obama, and it was totally erased without trace!

Stimulus and Econcomic Advisory Board

President Obama has aggressively argued for his proposed 900 billion dollar stimulus. Even writing an op-ed piece in the Washington post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/04/AR2009020403174.html?referrer=facebook

I have become more in support of the stimulus lately. The following reasoning makes me support it: 1) do nothing and nothing will change, we shall stay in this disaster. 2) tax cuts will do nothing but give people a little more money not to spend, and no spending leaves the economy as it is. 3) Funding things like education, health care, green jobs, and infrastructure creates jobs, employs people, and therefore puts consumer dollars back into the market.

Noted economist Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed for the N.Y. Times this morning stating the case for Stimulus (he thinks we need one at least twice as big as Obama proposes!):

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/opinion/06krugman.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

The President will be speaking to us on prime-time television on Monday to pitch the package.

Meanwhile the battle rages in the senate. The republicans oppose any stimulus at pretty much all costs, so we will see what a final bill looks like.

But we must recognize that the economy is a disaster and simply cutting taxes will do nothing. Obama, knowing this, has picked an economic advisory board supposedly to get advice from people who are not Washington insiders. I don't know enough about this board to evaluate them yet. But here is the video of Obama announcing the team:



The members of the board are listed as follows at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog_post/beyond_the_echo_chamber/

"The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Chairman
Paul Volcker

Staff Director and Chief Economist
Austan Goolsbee

Members
William H. Donaldson, Chairman, SEC (2003-2005)

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF

Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas

David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University

Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.

Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group

Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE

John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.

Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion

Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation

Anna Burger, Chair, Change to Win

Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley

Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Hank Aaron!

Hank Aaron turns 75 today. As far as I'm concerned he is still the home run champion. So to the real home run king: HAPPY 75TH!!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vatican Does the Right thing

To follow up yesterday's post, it is good to learn that the Vatican has now demanded one of the Bishops recant for denying the holocaust.

This deplorable bishop will not be re-admitted unless he does.

I am glad to hear this!

Had the Vatican simply admitted this bishop, the catholic church's reputation would have been seriously harmed and Jewish people would have been slandered.

Glad to know that the Vatican has chosen the right path.

Watch the Video here for more details:




Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Pope's poor judgment: Say it ain't so Joe!



I've not addressed this yet, but it seems to me I ought to make some comment. Let's make the problem really clear: The Pope has lifted an excommunication on at least two holocaust deniers.

Now I do not think that Benedict is himself a denier of the holocaust. And I doubt that he is an anti-semite. But he has clearly exercised both poor judgment and a callous disregard for the sensibilities and dignity of Jewish people.

The Holocaust - this does not even need saying - is one of the worst horrors in history. Few events were as evil, as great a violation of human dignity and rights. The Holocaust of the Armenians in Turkey is the only event like it in the last few centuries.

And there are still people alive who went through this horror!

To top this all off, the pope is German and was a Hitler youth!!! Let me clarify, I don't think Benedict was or is a Nazi or has any sympathy for such evil. But think of the image: a German pope receiving holocaust deniers back into his fold!!!!!!!!!

The German press, leadership, and even Chancellor Merkel have expressed profound outrage:

http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE5124E320090203

Come on Benedict!! Start thinking about how what you do will affect other people! Show some discernment and clear thinking!!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

John Conyers calls for prosecuting Bush Administration



John Conyers has written an Article at the Huffington Post calling for a complete investigation into the crimes and misdeeds of high officials in the Bush Administration.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Conyers makes all the right points in this piece here and states the case perfectly. We must be responsible for restoring our image and bringing justice back to Washington.

The matter seems to me pretty straightforward. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, and many others in the administration are criminals of war.

They invaded a country on "cooked" intelligence, fired U. S. attorneys on solely partisan grounds, outed Valerie Plame, tortured people, violated the constitution with wiretapping, and don't forget the travesty of Gitmo.

This administration's crimes against our nation, our constitution, international law, and humanity itself are truly a blot on our country. We must Prosecute those responsible.

Moving on does not mean letting guilty people walk off free.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Black History Month


Today is the start of Black History Month. I've always been unsure how to honor this month. Typically I watch a couple films dealing with the struggles of African-Americans, and read a book or two by a great African-American Author.

This year I will focus on Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama. Since both represent very historic "firsts," and Obama of course is a brand new first, I thought I should look there.

But I'm unsure. How is a white American to honor his month? How am I to properly respect and appreciate the history of African-Americans. What is the appropriate response?

That we must recognize and honor black history month, goes without saying. But we must do so appropriately, and properly.

This is an issue I shall have to reflect on. Any suggestions?

A final thought. Some express outrage at the fact that Black History Month takes place during the shortest month of the year. It might seem that African-Americans are somehow being snubbed by that.

But a little history clears up that misconception. Originally February was chosen because during the second week of February both Abraham Lincoln - who freed the slaves -, and Frederick Douglass - the great abolitionist and philosopher - were born.